Information for New Homeschoolers
Welcome to the world of homeschooling! It is an adventure of a lifetime, shared by hundreds of thousands of families around the world.
I have tried to answer some of the most common questions and concerns below, as well as give you links to other free and inexpensive resources that I’ve created while homeschooling for the last 35 years.
Is home schooling legal (in the United States)?
This used to be the most common question I heard when I first started my own home school journey, but now I don’t hear it as often. Today’s answer is generally “Yes, with some restrictions, home schooling is legal in all 50 states.” Unfortunately, even in the short time I’ve been helping homeschool families through CLC, problems have arisen in several states. So this situation may change at any time. You can go on Home School Legal Defense Association’s website, http://www.hslda.org/laws and find the laws for each state.
Alabama laws about homeschooling have been in a state of flux since I moved here twenty years ago. In 2012 the mandatory age was lowered from seven to six, and then again in 2015 – 2016 more changes were made that some people believe dropped the requirement for homeschoolers to belong to a Homeschool Cover/Group except for those who are certified teachers. Unfortunately it is difficult to find the new requirements and harder to make sense of them. So, at least for now, if I was still homeschooling, I would still be using the Homeschool cover option.
You can also see a list of many of the Homeschool Groups in Alabama on our Homeschool Groups page.
How do we get started?
One of the first things you’ll need to do is to decide what materials you want to use. If you want to do “school at home”, you have lots of options: A Beka, Alpha Omega, Bob Jones, Christian Liberty Press are a few of the more popular curriculums available. You can order directly from each of those companies and many others.
If you want to go beyond school at home, there are countless unit studies and lapbook kits available to help you get started. We have a free download giving lapbooking tips on TeachersPayTeachers along with a growing number of our own Mini Units and larger Unit Studies.
One of the things you will have to consider as you make these choices is your Philosophy of Education. We had a small booklet that goes over the primary philosophies available as an inexpensive download, but that went away at least temporarily with the closing of CurrClick. In the meantime, one of the chapters of Organized Ramblings deals with Philosophy of Education.
What about Record Keeping?
Record keeping doesn’t have to be complicated. A three-ring binder with notebook paper and a calendar can be used. If you homeschool under a Homeschool Cover, it is important to know what their requirements are – some certainly require more than others. For our purposes, and the use of different customers over the years, I developed several different options, from a Homeschool Journal to a Daily Lesson Planner to a Weekly Lesson Planner. None are complicated, all do the trick.
I also had a Simple Record Keeping booklet on CurrClick that would give you several different Lesson Plan options, a way to track hours for credits, a sample transcript, and more (again, hopefully it will reappear on TeachersPayTeachers soon!)
What about Standardized Tests?
Different states have different laws regarding standardized tests. In Alabama they are not required by the state, though some Homeschool Groups require them and many offer them as an option even if they are not required. When our family moved to Alabama we looked hard to find a group that didn’t require annual standardized testing. To that requirement I can only ask, what’s the point? In fact, I might also ask if we can stop to think about the premise behind standardized tests in the first place. (Is our goal, after all, to raise standardized children?}
But regardless of what we do or don’t do with annual tests, most of us in the homeschool community have to deal with them at least when our students are in high school, since they are generally a required part of getting into college.
What about Socialization? What about Classes?
Socialization is not a problem for any of the homeschoolers we know! For one thing, many homeschoolers are involved in classes outside their own homes. Homeschool groups often do classes, many of the museums in the area offer homeschool classes, and as the students grow older, many families choose duel enrollment options to increase their students’ class options, as well as their opportunities to socialize.
Biggest piece of advice
After years of home educating my twelve children (and helping with numerous others), my biggest piece of advice is that you not try to be a “Lone Ranger.” Stay connected to other homeschoolers, either in your area or over the internet. There are people out there who have gone through the same things you are and many of them are ready and willing to help and advise you. Hang in there – this can be the greatest adventure of your life!
Any other questions?
Do you have other questions that aren’t being answered here? You might find more of the answers you are looking for in the blog post, Homeschooling Questions and Answers.
Catherine Jaime, Mom of 12